The Utah fans should extend a thank you to the UFC and its matchmakers.
In the first-ever UFC event in the state, the Salt Lake City crowd got an endlessly entertaining scrap between featherweight hot shots Yair Rodriguez and Alex Caceres. The bout was ultimately won by Rodriguez by split decision (46-49, 48-47, 48-47) on Saturday night in the main event of UFC Fight Night 92.
Rodriguez, the top Mexican prospect, and Caceres put on a show in the first round with a dazzling array of flying kicks and knees and spinning techniques. Rodriguez, though, was the fighter getting through with the harder strikes more often in both the first and second rounds.
In the third, things seemed to change. Caceres went back to basics, using his boxing to land some damaging punches to Rodriguez. He also took Rodriguez down in the third and finished the frame there, landing punches and elbows.
It appeared at that point that Rodriguez was running out of gas, but that didn't end up being the case. Rodriguez came back to likely win the fourth and fifth rounds. Caceres seemed spent after the third-round flurry and Rodriguez was back to his crazy kicks and spins to seal with the decision victory.
Rodriguez (8-1), the former The Ultimate Fighter Latin America winner, has not lost under the UFC banner and is a budding star, especially in the Mexican market. The promotion certainly has big plans for one of its top up-and-coming fighters — and maybe its most exciting.
In the co-main event, Dennis Bermudez won a complete showing over Rony Jason by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-27). Bermudez opened up a massive cut on Jason's forehead in the first round and dominated him with ground and pound in the second. Jason had his moments in the third round, even cinching in a rear-naked choke on Bermudez. But Bermudez swept, got in top position and continued his assault from there.
Bermudez (16-5) has now won two straight after dropping a pair in a row to Ricardo Lamas and Jeremy Stephens. He's right back in the featherweight mix. Jason (14-6, 1 NC) was coming off a year-long drug suspension. The Brazilian beat Damon Jackson by submission in May 2015, but the result was overturned to a no-contest due to the positive drug test.
Thales Leites reminded everyone that he's still one of the toughest outs in the UFC's middleweight division. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist beat Chris Camozzi by submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:58 of the third round in a dominant performance. Leites outgrappled Camozzi throughout and won the first and second rounds clearly.
On the main card, Maryna Moroz beat Danielle Taylor by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27), Trevor Smith defeated Joe Gigliotti by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26) and Santiago Ponzinibbio knocked off Zak Cummings by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27).
The hometown fans were pretty happy Utah native Court McGee earned a decision victory, but those watching from their couches were not nearly as pleased. McGee won a unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) over Dominique Steele to cap the FOX Sports 1 prelims portion of the card. McGee did a lot of pushing up against the cage in the second and third rounds and not a whole lot of damage. Steele landed the bigger blows in both of those rounds after McGee took the first.
Marcin Tybura, David Teymur and Teruto Ishihara won all of their respective prelim fights via knockout or TKO. Tybura starched Viktor Pesta in the second round with a beautiful head kick; Teymur beat newcomer Jason Novelli with a series of hard left hands in the second round; and Ishihara used his big left to down Horacio Gutierrez in the first.
Afterward, Ishihara, the Team Alpha Male fighter known for his post-fight phrase "I love you my bitches!" asked the women of Salt Lake City to visit him — and then promptly wished his mother a happy birthday.
Cub Swanson gutted out an extremely entertaining UFC Fight Pass feature fight against Tatsuya Kawajiri. Swanson rallied after likely losing the first round to win by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28). Swanson (23-7) has won two in a row after dropping two straight against Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway. Kawajiri (35-10-2) has lost a pair in a row.
In the opener, Justin Leder defeated Chase Sherman by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) in a battle of heavyweight UFC newcomers.
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